Editor's note: The person quoted in the article referenced in this letter has submitted a letter explaining the context of her remarks. It can be found here: "'Unhealty' quote was taken out of context."

I was shocked by some of the quotes in the recent article on schools being considered to be closed. A quote from a parent/psychologist deemed Shearer and Snow schools “not healthy”.

I volunteer weekly in a classroom of one of these “not healthy” schools where I work with the children to help them learn their second language and on creative art projects. I do my best to fund extra supplies. The children welcome me with smiles and delight. I thank them for their hard work and kindness.

This experience has given me an important opportunity to reach across borders of language and privilege, and to see the reality of life in this valley, where all too often, those who do the hardest, most vital work are least appreciated and compensated.

In return, I receive far more than I give: these healthy, beautiful children are bright beacons of knowledge, resilience, inspiration and love. Their teachers and principal foster a culture of kindness, diligence, respect and harmony. They represent the American dream, the immigrant experience, as their families build lives with new opportunities, but not without challenges. Most of these children are bilingual, already exceeding the language skills of the majority of Americans. I learn something important from them every week and it is my privilege to work with them.

Yet this article had disturbing comments. I found it not only hurtful but also untrue for a “parent/psychologist” to proclaim Shearer and Snow schools to be “not healthy.” I also found it sad to hear my district supervisor validate this statement with her support of the county’s wealthy, mostly white, small schools’ “culture.” Was the term “not healthy” used as a euphemism for “immigrants and financial challenges?” Is this “culture” a vague term for isolation and enrichment for the few?

It appears that some Napa parents wish to avoid the reality of poverty and school segregation in this community by separating themselves from the very people upon whose backs the local economy heavily rides. They do not want their own children sitting next to the children whose parents have the sore and calloused hands of those who pick the grapes, work the restaurant kitchens, and clean the hotel rooms that drive the tourism and wine industries.

To indict a school as “not healthy” is also to condemn the teachers who work just as hard as all the devoted teachers at other Napa schools. And these teachers do it without the extra support of funded enrichment by a large PTO/PTA.

How ironic that the schools that need it least are most enriched. Why would one school have a higher teacher/student ratio to another all within the same district?

I challenge enriched PTO/PTAs to share 10 percent of their funds with a school in poverty in this county. Imagine the lesson for their own children in community caring, kindness, and generosity this would provide.

I challenge my supervisor to see the real Napa, and talk about it in terms that are not obfuscated in order to placate a constituent who may wish to isolate her children from her own community. I would love to hear my district supervisor championing help for the schools with the greatest needs in the county, rather than for a “culture” of isolation and preserved privilege.

Let’s stop building walls.

Let’s build more bridges and let’s start with our schools.

Deborah Fortune Walton


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